The myth of God as indifferent superintendent explodes. Elaborating on his metaphor of sheep and shepherd, Jesus teaches us something vital about Him. We learn how He views His role in this drama of humanity with which He so closely identifies.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10: 11-15)
Jesus here expands on the story of the flock of sheep. He moves Himself into the role of shepherd to contrast Himself with other leaders. His audience is familiar with the self-serving religious leadership in their cultural community. They are also accustomed to the indifferent superintendence of the political leadership of the ruling empire. They, like we, are more than a little disillusioned by the lack of authenticity in people who claim to care.
Jesus steps boldly forward here describing His leadership as uniquely good and caring. He is saying that He and only He truly loves people. He likens Himself to a shepherd who puts his life on the line to protect his sheep from the wolf. The hired hand doesn’t care any more for the sheep than that they provide him with income. The wolf surely cares nothing more for the sheep than as objects to be devoured. Only the good shepherd takes ownership of truly caring for the intrinsic value of the sheep. Jesus even foretells His own sacrificial death in this analogy. The good Shepherd stops at nothing to ensure the safety of His sheep. Imagine someone loving you so much they would die for you to ensure your survival. Do you know anyone like that?
We need reminding that the scenario of the human condition includes a bully whose sole purpose is to destroy your life and mine, for eternity. He’s not the only fool, either. We’ve all taken a major misstep. A man in tune with the truth of our condition once said, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Did you hear who it is that must bear the brunt of our human rebellion? ‘The LORD has laid on HIM’—Jesus—‘the iniquity of us all’. Jesus, the good Shepherd takes the rap, pays the consequences, so we can be back in the sheepfold. Jesus has such sympathy for our situation He gives of Himself to give us back something we failed to realize was lost: the ability to choose to return to Him.
Make no mistake, He’s heavily invested in your life. Don’t ever accuse Him of being distant, disinterested, or careless of you. That’s the wolf’s lie. Perhaps it’s been easier to label Him with those tags that to accept that they may in fact describe you. It’s worth considering, isn’t it?
So we see four points in Jesus’ sheep-gate metaphor: Followers of Jesus learn to distinguish His voice from all others; it is life-changing (Have you heard it?); Jesus is the only fodder that can nourish our spirit to live into eternity (Have you eaten it?); Jesus is singularly peerless in providing true life (Do you want it?); and only Jesus truly cares for us (Do you choose to accept it?).
Interesting theme running throughout, isn’t it? Did you hear it? Jesus is uniquely and closely involved in the lives of people. He is the means by which God reveals His interest, participation, and attachment to people’s lives. He’s the only Shepherd that’s just dying to spend eternity with a bunch of sheep.